Ahmedabad: For Hardik Patel it was never about ensuring reservation for the Patidars, alleged Gujarat's deputy chief minister Nitin Patel of the BJP today, accusing the 24-year-old activist of a sell-out after he announced his support for the Congress in next month's Gujarat elections.
"The people of the state have seen in the last few days that reservation was a facade and it was all about the political ambition of Hardik Patel," said the Deputy Chief Minister, who too is a Patidar and was appointed last year by the ruling BJP as number 2 in the government to signal to the powerful caste its importance for the party.
On the pact between Hardik Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and the Congress on reservations, Nitin Patel said that the two were fooling the Patidar community. ''The judgements that they are quoting, one delivered by a nine-judge bench clearly states no reservation above 50 per cent. They are fooling the Patidars offering a formula which is not legally tenable,'' he said.
Hardik Patel, who led a massive agitation two years ago demanding that Patels or Patidars be included in castes that get reservation in government jobs and colleges, today vowed to work with the Congress to oust the BJP as punishment for not meeting the Patels' demand.
The Congress, he said, has offered a solution for how to include Patels in castes that benefit from affirmative action and will detail it prominently in its manifesto for the assembly elections, to be held on December 9 and 14, before votes are counted on December 18.
Hardik Patel's announcement came after days of negotiations as the Congress attempts to cash in on the recent Patel anger with the BJP. The community, 14 per cent of Gujarat's voters, have for decades supported the BJP, which has been in power in the state for the last 22 years. Hardik said his one-point agenda is "doing my utmost to defeat the BJP."
The BJP has sent out strong signals to the Patels too. Patidars make up more than a fourth of the BJP's candidate list announced so far for the assembly elections. A third of the ruling party's current legislators in Gujarat are from the community, including nine ministers.
After previous chief minister Anandiben Patel was seen to mishandle the Patel agitation, the BJP effected damage control replacing her with Vijay Rupani and appointing Nitin Patel as his deputy.
Nitin Patel has been meeting the different Patidar groups that have been involved in the agitation to try and address their concerns and Hardik Patel had attended such a meeting last month.